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Family asks OSHA for steeper fines for fatal job-related accident

In 2012, a family lost their beloved 20-year-old son when he was killed on the job. OSHA initially fined the company for five violations -- two of which were dismissed -- and the proposed fines were negotiated down from $13,860. The man's family was outraged that a company could pay less than $7,000 for a fatal job-related accident. The fatality did not occur in North Carolina, but there may be families here who have endured a similar situation.

The man was employed by a construction company and was preparing to complete his college degree. He was struck in the head by the bucket of a large piece of equipment, resulting in a fatal injury. That state's branch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allegedly found the company in violation of five separate safety protocols in connection to the accident.

The company was able to successfully re-negotiate the violations and fines. The family of the victim has now launched a campaign for OSHA to establish a set fine in the amount of $50,000 for every accident that results in the death of a worker. The family offered testimony before a committee, asking that the proposed fine be non-negotiable in order to encourage employers to make a stronger commitment to worker safety.

There was an effort on the part of at least one lawmaker to revise how OSHA assesses fines in Wyoming, but the measure did not garner enough support at that time. Workplace accidents can happen in almost any environment, and they are not always preventable. One thing that may bring a measure of comfort to a North Carolina employee who suffers a job-related accident is that one will likely qualify to receive workers' compensation benefits to help with meeting expenses. If an employee is hurt on the job, there are resources nearby that can help with the process of filing these claims in a timely manner.

Source: k2radio.com, "Stiffer OSHA Penalties Considered", Roger Gray, Oct. 23, 2014

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